The USS Fitzgerald, whose collision with a merchant vessel southwest of the Japanese city of Yokosuka near Tokyo on Saturday resulted in the deaths of seven American sailors, is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
The Fitzgerald was in the first flight of the destroyer class constructed more than 20 years ago. There are 62 ships in the destroyer class operating in the fleet, and 13 more are under contract. The foreign policy discussion website The National Interest said the Burke class comprises one-fifth of the Navy’s ships.
To get an idea of the cost per vessel: in fiscal year 1997, Congress appropriated $3.6 billion for construction of four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
The Fitzgerald’s keel was laid down in 1993 at Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. The ship was launched in 1994, commissioned a year later and is due to be decommissioned in 2030. The Fitzgerald was homeported in San Diego.
Arleigh Burke-class was the first Navy ship designed to incorporate shaping techniques to cut down radar cross-section to reduce their detectability. The destroyer class is regarded by defense experts as the most capable and survivable ocean surface combatant.
This destroyer class was originally designed to defend against Soviet aircraft, cruise missiles and nuclear attack submarines. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was intended to be used in high-threat areas to conduct anti-anti-submarine, anti-surface and strike operations.
The initial Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers displaced 8,300 tons and are 506 feet long. Their maximum speed is more than 30 knots, and they have a cruising range of 4,400 nautical miles at 20 knots. Propulsion is provided by four General Electric-made LM 2500-30 gas turbine turbines per vessel.
The Fitzgerald is named for Navy Lt. William Charles Fitzgerald, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for heroism during the Vietnam War.
The Fitzgerald was part of U.S. military effort to deliver supplies to the hardest-hit areas of Japan following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated that nation in 2011.
The Fitzgerald was deployed to Yokosuka as part of the USS Ronald Reagan Strike Group.